I get the “dog park question” quite frequently. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it fun? Is it unsafe?
In my opinion? It can, and will at times, be all of the above.
I know dog people who swear by them and those who swear they will never set foot in one.
My two cents? Use your best judgement and make the decision that fits you and your dog while keeping in mind the following:
- Not all dogs are, or want to be, social butterflies. Dog parks can be a great place for dogs who seem to love everybody and can think of nothing better than a field full of strange new friends. However, for dogs who are shy, introverted, or no-nonsense, it’s probably not their idea of a good time.
- People are irresponsible. It doesn’t matter how responsible you are as a dog owner, you cannot control the owners around you. When at the dog park, your primary focus should be – you guessed it – YOUR DOG. Dog parks are not the place to do your yoga, get lost in a good book, or take a nap on a bench. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a lot of folks do – at the expense of those around them. You have to be your dog’s advocate – if you see them being bullied, go to their rescue. And by all means, if your dog IS the bully, put a stop to it!
- Vaccinations are not guaranteed. Now, if your dog park is owned/run by a humane society or other animal welfare organization, you may be required to show proof of vaccinations to gain access. That being said, I have been told by multiple people that they share their gate code/park access credentials with friends. While those folks no doubt believe they are doing their friends a favor, if those dogs aren’t properly vaccinated, they’re doing everyone else a disservice.
- It’s a playground – accidents happen. As you can read in this article – “How a Routine Trip to the Dog Park Ended With a Broken Hip” – it’s not just dogs who have the potential to get hurt! Most dogs possess great athletic ability, but that doesn’t mean they never run into something! There is also the possibility of run-ins with unfriendly dogs. I have personally witnessed a person being backed up onto a bench by an aggressive dog – the owner was on the other side of the park and had no idea his dog was being a bully until I yelled at him.
After pointing out some of the shortcomings of dog parks, you might think I’m totally against them. I’m not! Tucker has frequented several parks and has, for the most part, had really great experiences! That being said, I didn’t take Tucker to a dog park until he was a full blown adult – physical and mentally mature. He was a well rounded adult with a happy go lucky personality and good manners. Even so, we had our fair share of weird experiences and days when we left early because someone else got out of hand.
I don’t know that we’ll ever take our new German Shepherd to one, but if we do, I can tell you that I’ll be watching her, and everyone else, like a hawk – and we will leave at the first sign of trouble.